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In 1911, Vernon Castle, minor comic in a stage revue, pursues the leading lady to a New Jersey beach...where, instead, he meets stage-struck Irene Foote. A few misadventures later, they're married; at Irene's insistence, they abandon comedy to attempt a dancing career, which attempt only lands them in Paris without a sou. Fortunately, agent Maggie Sutton hears them rehearse and starts them on their brilliant career as the world's foremost ballroom dancers. But at the height of their fame, World War I begins... Written by
Rod Crawford <firstname.lastname@example.org>
"The Story of Vernon and Irene Castle" was the last of the major Fred Astaire - Ginger Rogers musicals of the 1930s. And it was different in many ways from the others, namely that the story was more important than the songs and dances.
Really, is "Top Hat" with its emphasis on production numbers linked by a thin plot of mistaken identity really a lot different than today's action movies with endless car chases and pyrotechnic special effects linked by a very thin story about a hit man or the earth getting hit by a comet? Sorry about that analogy, I'll take the great musicals over the "actions" any day! "Yo" is not great dialog.
My parents tell me that at the time, this film was panned by the critics and did not make it as big at the box office. Could it be that everyone wanted another "Top Hat" or Swing Time?" I enjoyed those lovely musicals with their big production numbers. Could it be the emphasis on Vernon's patriotic service with the RAF in World War I might have offended many people's "isolationism" in 1939 about the growing World War II?
Fred and Ginger wanted to do a movie with more substance, and they pulled it off in grand style. The songs and dances were nice, with only one very brief "production number." But they did a great job of showing how two young entertainers met, fell in love, became famous, and made a sacrifice in the war. In 1911, young Irene Castle "discovers" Vernon, a second-rate vaudeville comic when she sees him dancing at an evening outing. She shows Vernon her not ready for prime time dance number "The Yama Yama Men." The two fall in love and marry, and with a lot of self-taught dance technique, suddenly hit the big time in France by dancing their famous "Castle Walk." The Castles' fame grew and grew and they toured Europe and America, and made a lot of money through merchandising things like Irene Castle hats. Long before Michael Jordan's basketball shoes. In fact, you will see entries for both Vernon and Irene here in the Movie Database. Irene went on to star in a few silent films, but never made a "talkie." You'll be glad to know that Irene served as an advisor for the Rogers -Astaire film, enhancing its accuracy.
As always, they had some great character actors. I never knew Walter Brennan was ever that young. Fred and Ginger really showed a depth to their acting. From there, of course, Ginger moved into dramatic movies, including her Oscar-winning "Kitty Foyle." I think Fred's later movies matured too.
In short, I think you will like this movie, but don't expect to see a clone of "Swing Time."
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